Marthélize Tredoux: Blue wine and other gimmicks
By Marthelize Tredoux, 24 June 2016
Blue wine. That’s the latest craze. Or trend. Or gimmick. Call it what you will. It is exactly what it sounds like – wine that is actually blue. It’s made by Spanish wine company Gik, who collaborated with the University of Basque Country and the Azti Tecnecalia food research team to produce the blue wine through enhancing the role of anthocyanin (from the Greek words ‘anthos’ meaning flower and ‘kyanos’ meaning blue – or cyan) pigments already found in red grape skins and adding some indigo dye to get the colour just right.
I don’t know the specifics of the process – particularly how much of the blue hue is from the anthocyanin and how much from the indigo dye – but reading about this new thing had reminded me how much wine (as a luxury, lifestyle product) is susceptible to some truly unique brands of total bunk.
Thinking about this vulnerability to nonsense put me in two minds. I’m a scientist by nature and by training so the idea of anyone making money off patently absurd hokum, hogwash and phooey really riles me up (ask me about homeopathy – I dare you…).
On the flip side though, wine is ultimately a fun indulgence too. It’s something made to be enjoyed – so who are we to dictate how people should enjoy it? If you like your wine blue because the shade works well with your favourite Instagram filter, then there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to buy your cat some MosCATo or Pinot Meow (yes – real products but basically liquid catnip and not actually wine) then who am I to judge? Ok, I will judge you a little bit but it shouldn’t matter what I think.
I suppose the danger I worry about is when the lines get blurred between the harmless gimmicks marketed to the masses and when the wine industry itself (which should be more serious about these things since it’s our business, after all) starts falling for the drivel.
I am mentally preparing myself for potentially being kicked off many a PR media list as I type this, but I attend many events and see endless press releases where – as part of the whole spiel – some gimmicky aspect is the central feature of this “ground-breaking” new wine which everyone is “delighted” to tell you about. Something about the moon, usually. Or maybe the winemaker was a rockstar in his previous life and found that the soothing sounds of Iron Maiden really increases the vigour of the vines. Or someone accidentally dropped a teabag in their wine glass and now winemaking as we know it has been revolutionised. Or they made the wine blue.
There’s always something.
And I just figured out why I find it so annoying. It irks me because as a collective, the industry (both on the production and marketing sides) is all too ready to accept the claims of these magical new machinations at their word. It’s new, it’s different and best of all it’s marketable so let’s go with that!
Yet try have a constructive conversation about crop technology, for example, involving trigger words like “GMO”, and the same people who eat up the baseless bunk for breakfast decide that mountains of evidence and actual scientific proof should take a back seat because… Well. I’m not quite sure why they decide that, but they do.
I don’t mind the gimmicks. They’re fun. I have a good laugh when I spot a new and creative marketing push to get people to notice a wine. I just don’t like it when gimmicks are more readily embraced than facts. It makes me uncomfortable, unsettled and concerned. It makes me want to drink. Even if the wine is blue.
- Marthélize Tredoux is the co-owner and editor at Incogvino. By day, she helps SA wineries sell their wine in the USA. She won the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition in 2013.